Addition by subtraction. Translation: sometimes it is easier to make a team better by removing certain pieces. While the Mets haven’t exactly cleaned house this off season, there have been some players removed in the past six months which has benefited the team. “He Won’t Be Missed” will take a look at some of those players who are thankfully no longer with the Amazins. First up: Rod Barajas.
The Mets signed Barajas in late Feburary of 2010-pretty late in the game-to a one year, 500,000 contract, plus incentives, at the age of 34. For much of his career, Barajas had been known as a player with a low OBP and some pop. Prior to 2010, his highest was OBP was .352, which came in 2007 with the Phillies. However, it should be noted that he only made 146 plate appearances that season. A more typical Barajas season was 2009, which he spent with the Blue Jays where he hit .226/.258/.403 with 19 homers (actually to be fair, his career OBP to that point was .284). The Mets got typical Barajas.
In the 74 games he spent in New York, Barajas hit .225/.263/.414 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI, with 11 of his long balls coming in April and May. In short, he went from one home run every 14 plate appearances to one home run every 113 plate appearances. If Barajas was getting on base, it would have been one thing, but between June 1st and the time he was traded to the Dodgers on August 19th, the backstop’s batting average was .163 and his OBP was .223. During his time with the Mets, Barajas produced a WAR of 0.5.
But wait, his WAR indicates that technically, he didn’t hurt the team overall, he just contributed very little; maybe he could be used in a bench role? Since Barajas signed a one year, $3.25 million contract with the Dodgers, he’s not returning to the Mets, but looking at his numbers make a strong case that he wouldn’t succeed as a backup anyway. Going into 2011, Josh Thole is likely to be the Mets starting catcher on Opening Day. If the Mets were to use Barajas in a backup or even platoon kind of role, he would have to be either 1) strong against lefties or 2) a defensive upgrade. Barajas is neither of those things.
Last year, Rod hit .190/.235/.316 against southpaws with three home runs in 85 plate appearances, compared to his .256/.300/.491 line and 14 homers against righties. His career batting line against lefties of .229/.283/.413 isn’t much better. So the platoon option is out. Defensively is the only area where Barajas might have been useful. For his career, Barajas has thrown out 32% of base runners, but last year he only threw out 15% (six of 40). He also was minus two in runs saved, although to be fair, Barajas usually puts up a small, but positive number in that category. Thole did cost the Mets one run this past season, but threw out 11 of 25 base runners, a 44% clip. Barajas might be solid defensively for his career, but Thole seems to be strong enough defensively so that he doesn’t need a defensive replacement.
So while the Dodgers are over paying Barajas to most likely share time with Dioner Navarro, the Mets will have a home grown catcher who has the ability to get on base. Best of luck in L.A. Rod, but Met fans will be glad you’re 3,000 miles away.